Day Of The Dead (1985) (Collector’s Edition) [Blu-ray]

dotd“I’ll set us down. But I won’t leave my seat and I’ll keep the engine running. Now the first sign of trouble, I’m going up. If you ain’t on board when that happens, you’re likely to have a lousy afternoon.”

A deserted metropolitan lingers in the tropics, signs of turmoil and carnage still linger. Garbage is strewn about, shadows wash past walls, and piles of money brush in to the air like hurricanes, unclaimed, and now merely just paper. After calling out to the city with a bullhorn looking for survivors, there is an answer, but not the answer Sarah and Miguel were looking for. From the corners of the city, the walking dead begin seeping in. The air is no longer filled with sounds of the ocean, but of the horrific moans and shrieks of the dead. The darkness is now filled with the motion of dozens of shambling corpses, and for miles all the pair could see are the cold, pale, snarling faces of defeat slowly creeping in on the couple, hungry for their flesh.

“Day of the Dead” may not have been the movie director George Romero planned to make in the beginning, but in its current form, it’s a rather incredible horror movie. After “Night” and “Dawn” revealed a world struggling to bring down the living dead, “Day” shows that mankind descended in to the endangered species list, thanks to the living dead. Though the third entry in the first series is immensely scaled down compared to “Dawn,” Romero manages to build on that by focusing on folks slowly losing their sanity. Sarah and her group of scavengers are now apart of a dwindling platoon of soldiers. What was once considered a temporary post to help ease the swell of the dead, has now become a permanent home for Sarah and her mixed band of soldiers and military officials. They’re suffering from cabin fever, they’re going absolutely stir crazy, and boredom has given way to demented antics that involve taunting the living dead and playing with their bodies. The group are surrounded at all corners by the walking dead, and even worse, they’re led by the obviously shell shocked and power hungry Captain Rhodes.

Though many fans have considered Joseph Pilato’s performance over the top, his approach to the character of Rhodes is apt considering the sheer lunacy of the situation he and his comrades are entrenched in. The remaining humans for five hundred miles can do nothing but hide out in an underground bunker, and have all been shell shocked to some degree. Rhodes is a character who is not only shell shocked, but was one a minor military officer tasked with becoming leader when his former superior killed. Even worse, Rhodes is horrified of dying just like everyone else, thus he is willing to kill anyone to ensure his own safety. He is anxious for answers where there are none, and knows no other course of action but to stay in the bunker and await a miracle. Lori Cardille is the most interesting character in the story, a lone woman in a group of uneasy men who spends her nights self medicating and sedating herself, often haunted by horrible nightmares of the dead.

Much of what’s a nightmare, and what’s a repressed memory is never truly explored, but she’s just as complex as the men surrounding her, many of whom are too terrified to function. Except for Dr. Logan who spends his time around the dead, trying to adapt to them, rather than beat them. He grows especially fond of a zombie named Bub who has potential to indicate the dead can be domesticated and trained. “Day of the Dead” is about humanity gasping its dying breath, and how the remaining few still couldn’t come together to work for a common cause, regardless of the circumstances. “That’s the trouble with the world, Sarah darlin’,” character John declares, “People got different ideas concernin’ what they want out of life.” That’s how the dead overcame man. Rhodes spends the entire film trying to figure out how the dead won, without ever looking at what’s in front of him. The dead work as a legion of unbiased drones bent on consuming, they’re the ultimate army, thus they beat mankind, in the end.

Featured in the Scream Factory release is a new ninety minute documentary from Shout! entitled “World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead.” It’s a very detailed and entertaining look at every possible nook and cranny of the production of “Day of the Dead.” The director chronicles how the film originally began as a concept very similar to “Land of the Dead” and was eventually scaled down. There are looks at nearly every cast member who provide insight in to their performances, how they interacted on set, and what the experience was like filming in a lime mine that reached for literal miles. There are some interesting tidbits as well as some funny ones, including how everyone became sick from lime fever during production, how a special effects member almost took Tom Savini’s eye out during a prank, and how Savini created the gory final scenes where four characters are ripped apart by the living dead. Savini also weighs in on how he feels about the effects now, and how he was committed to being as realistic as possible in regards to guts and grue.

As well, we also learn how Bub* went from minor character to crucial player, and how his make up was modeled after Scott Reiniger’s in “Dawn of the Dead.” Savini and Pilato also discuss the famous “Rubber chicken” myth. There’s a thirty minute Behind the Scenes segment, and an eight minute local infomercial about the mines where the movie was set. “Underground: The Day of the Dead Mines” is a seven minute glimpse at the mines the film was set in, and how they look today. There’s also the theatrical trailer, TV Spots, and a still gallery. Finally, there’s a great and very spirited audio commentary with director George A. Romero, make up artist Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and actress Lori Cardille who plays the film’s heroine Sarah. Though there are much of the same anecdotes repeated, it’s still fun to hear the crew interact and discuss the film’s subtleties and production qualities.

* Watching Sherman Howard do his Bub makes me giggle like a kid at a magic show.

In Stores September 17th from Scream! Factory.